Five Thoughts About Self-Love We All Need To Embrace

Good morning, Dear Reader! Although I’ve been up since 2:23 a.m., I am running late on this post. Forgive me. I’ve been putting labels on my spice jars. It’s what I do when I can’t sleep. I’m still determining what I would do without that label-maker, but, as a minimalist and an insomniac, I’m running out of things to label. 

We, dear Reader, are quickly approaching the end of the year. I only have a few more weeks to convince you that simplicity isn’t “something you do” but rather more closely aligned with “someone you are”. That is not to say, “You are simple”. But instead, the act of embracing simplicity makes life more simple. Sigh. I can’t find my words today. I hope you get what I’m trying to relay. (SOS. Send coffee.)

I’ve looked back on many of my posts over the past year, and a great amount center on self-love. So today, I’d like to wrap up that concept with five thoughts on loving yourself and why it’s essential.

Most of us grew up believing that anything that looks like ‘self-love’ is selfish and we should avoid being selfish. But I no longer agree with this, and here’s why:

Loving yourself means you can be a better human. But…let me be clear about something. I believe you can be less than 100% into the whole self-love thing, AND you can love another person. Do you know what I mean? So many people cling to that old adage, “You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself.” 

{Cough} Bullshit.

I’ve loved my son more than the air I breathe since the day he arrived on this planet, and I struggled with loving myself for many of those years. So, um, yeah. You can love others while you work on yourself. 

You may ask, “What does it even mean for me to love myself?” Don’t worry. I’ve got five thoughts to share with you on that. 

So, grab that drink and settle in. Let’s get started, shall we?

1) Caring for yourself, and knowing that caring for you, is just as important (if not more!) than the care you provide to others. Since I battle insomnia, I know that there are times I require a nap during the day. If I don’t get adequate sleep, I will screw stuff up at work. I’m pro-nap on days like today, even when others need things for me. You may need to call off work and take a ‘sick day’ when you aren’t sick and go to the movies. If you read the employee handbook, I betcha it outlines how many sick days you earn. It doesn’t list the items that qualify as ‘sick days’. (Gasp! My father just rolled over in his grave because I suggested you take off work when you aren’t even sick. Sorry Daddy-O.)

2) It means being willing to set and maintain boundaries even if you sometimes feel guilty about it. I love my son’s school, and for two years, I served on the board of the PTA. I gave a lot of time and money to these efforts. However, I stepped back last year and set some boundaries around my time and money. It breaks my heart when there is a need at the school, but I have decided to give my money elsewhere for the 2022-23 school year. If you, like me, are a people pleaser, this can be a significant step in the self-love arena.

3) It means honoring your own wants and needs. I know you all think I’m the most direct and crass person on the planet, but honestly, there was a time that I would eat food I didn’t like just because I was afraid to speak up and say, “I don’t want to go to that restaurant.” These days? Well, I’m not spending time with my family for Thanksgiving. My kid is with his other half of DNA, I’m off work, and I’d really like some downtime with no dishes to wash or people to please. So, guilt be damned. Honor those wants and needs.

4) It means accepting yourself as you are…not waiting until you are (fill in the blank). Someone sent me a link to an MLM program yesterday with the subject line “Stop hating your body,” and I remember thinking, “I don’t hate my body.” Sure, I’d like to lose some weight. I want to make more money. I want to be entirely out of debt. But waiting until those things are accomplished to accept me? Hogwash. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself – get some help if you can’t think of anything – and pull that out every time you wade into negative water.

5) It means noticing your unhelpful thought patterns and working on them so you can improve how you feel about your life. For example, mid-Summer, I realized I was agreeing to things I didn’t really want at the moment because I feared the reaction of others. In fact, this irrational fear of others’ reactions actually lent itself to unhappy choices in several areas of my life. I invite you to work hard to get to the bottom of some of your limiting beliefs or unhelpful thought patterns. Once you see them for what they really are, you’ll begin to notice how unhelpful they are. Those thoughts probably create opportunities for you to shrink back, and not live your best life. 

That’s it for today, Reader. I’ve got a nap to plan. Also, I’ve been digging around Spotify all damn morning trying to find a song that fits with the theme today; alas, I just can’t find that perfect song. So, how about I give you a link to one of my favorites? This Mitch Rossell song may be new to you. But he isn’t new to the music scene. In fact, he’s written a ton of songs for Garth Brooks and if you listen closely, Trisha Yearwood provides a lot of background vocals on his songs. She even makes a cameo in this video (Bonus song!) He opened for GB in April in Arkansas, and I fell in love. (Okay, not love. Remember, I no longer fall in love with musicians as I mentioned in this post last week.) But, ain’t gonna lie. There’s something about a man and an acoustic guitar that makes me swoon. Sigh. Enjoy!

As always, if someone needs to read this, share it on all those social thingys. I’d appreciate it. And as all the YouTubers say, “Don’t forget to subscribe,” so you don’t miss a post.

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Three Simple Ways To Reframe Life

Good evening, Dear Reader! It was a beautiful day to snuggle under the covers with a good book, but I had to work. I plan to indulge this weekend, but until then, I just wanted to chat with you. 

On Wednesday before bed, my son asked me if I’d get something from his backpack ‘that was really cool’. So I grabbed his bag, and inside I found a mid-sized squishy ball. (My son is autistic, and he likes squishy things). I thought, “That is a cool ball. Wonder where he got that?”. So I asked him how he became the purveyor of such a remarkable object. He devised an elaborate story centered on wheelin’ and dealin’. He ended his narrative by asking for $2 to pay the previous owner. While I was impressed by his creativity (he’s quite the storyteller, that one), something in my gut whispered, “Lies! Lies! It’s all a bunch of lies!”

I looked at him through narrowed eyes and said…

“I’m going to ask you again where you got this ball, and if you lie to me, you will be in more trouble than if you tell me the truth.”

His eyes widened. He looked down, and his lower lip quivered. Then he looked me dead in the eye.

“I took it.”

“Took it from whom?” I calmly asked.

“From the gym teacher.”

I looked at my little thief and said, “Thank you for telling me the truth. Enjoy that ball tonight because tomorrow you’ll return it.” I kissed him on the forehead and left the room. I then located his PE teacher on Facebook and messaged him to let him know that we needed to meet with him in the morning. I didn’t mention why. 

Long story short: My son returned the ball. He apologized. The coach explained why things should not be taken from the school. He even offered to let my kid borrow the ball, informing him that it needed to be arranged in advance because other kids needed it for gym class. 

No one yelled at him. I had given prior directions on the proper way to apologize. His PE teacher informed him of the expectations for borrowing the ball. There are consequences to match the infraction. I think all of this is appropriate. I mean, the kid already felt terrible. Why shame him?

This brings me to today’s post. As adults, we constantly rehash our past mistakes and try hard to be better adults by obsessing over what we do wrong. We, essentially, shame ourselves every single day. Here’s an idea: How about we don’t do that anymore? Let’s consider stopping and shrugging while we whisper, “That no longer serves me. Think I’ll do something different.” 

I’ve got three simple ways to navigate life for you this morning that will help reframe how you’ve always done things. Frankly, they are so simple I’m wondering why it’s taken me nearly 51 years to embrace them.

Grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s go.

1) Your strength comes from knowing your weaknesses. I’m not too fond of job interviews. “Tell us your greatest strength. Tell us your greatest weakness.” Well, Karen, I’ve learned that sometimes my weaknesses can be my greatest strengths. I can be hyper-focused which makes me a good problem-solver. Office chit-chat bores me, so I finish my work and meet deadlines. When you understand your weaknesses, they can become a source of strength. 

2) Accepting your flaws makes you beautiful. I love the television shows that take a frumpy middle-aged mom (um…yeah) and give her wardrobe an overhaul, essentially turning a frog into a princess. I have flaws. We all do. But I am learning to appreciate mine. For example, since learning I am susceptible to others’ energy, I’ve learned to set better boundaries. Because I set better boundaries, I’ve become a calmer and kinder person. Instead of thinking, “God. Why can’t I be more gregarious and outgoing?”, I’ve accepted that I don’t really like people much. I’ve become more selective about where I spend my time and energy. I’m also carrying a few extra pounds – which some people may consider a flaw – but that makes me a good candidate for a “cheeseburger and a beer” date. I hear most men appreciate that. You, like me, are flawed…and you’re beautiful. 

3) Your mistakes equal wisdom. My friends and I went to hear a local favorite, Isaac Kenneth, sing his sultry lyrics. The topic of dating musicians came up somehow. My friend said, “I wanted to be a musician when I grew up.” I scoffed and replied, “You can’t be both a musician and a grown-up.” Which got a little chuckle…but still. My experience with loving a musician led me to realize that they are a lot like expensive cars: Fun to look at…but really pricey to maintain. Now, not all musicians are bad. I’m sure there are hard-working, kind musicians who aren’t prone to infidelity out in the world…somewhere. But falling madly in love with a musician is a mistake I made once and am not willing to make again. You may have learned that taking a job just because it pays well may not be the right path for you. Or maybe you’ve learned that when your child comes up with a creative story that seems a bit unbelievable…it’s because it’s not truthful. Perhaps you’ve learned that one too many arguments rehashing the same exact thing means nothing is really going to change. So, repeat this: I made the best decision possible with the information I had at the time. Then ask yourself how you can choose something different if faced with that same dilemma again. A mistake is just that… A Miss Take. Take a different route next time. The new path is where wisdom meets the road.

And with that, my friend, I leave you with a song. This upbeat 1994 song by Des’ree encourages you to dig deep and discover your true self. It promotes bravery, serenity, and honesty. I think that if you consider my three tips, you’ll become bolder, tougher, stronger, and cooler. She’s right, though, about one thing: Love will save the day. But that starts with self-love.

Dear Reader, if you liked this post, share it on all those social thingys. Please and thank you.

Three Surprising Ways Road Trips Resemble Relationships

Good evening, Dear Reader! I just want to say that tomorrow is a beautiful day to get a colonoscopy (consider this your PSA if you are over 50). I’m headed over to do just that in the morning, and {insert sarcasm} I am so incredibly excited…about the large pizza and frozen custard I’m going to get as soon as it is over. I’ve been doing all the prep stuff for the last two days – the clear liquid diet, the delicious gallon of prep-juice they make you drink, and doing my best to stay close to home just in case I…um…well. Yeah. Anyway – I just want to tell you, Dear Reader: If you ever thought I was completely full of shit, I assure youI. Am. Not. At least, not anymore.

Now, all of that is out of the way. Let’s kick off the weekend early because of, well you know, by setting up today’s post. 

Last Saturday I found myself with an infrequent day of bliss. All my ‘people’ had other commitments, and I had none. So I jumped in my car and headed out to finalize one of my 2022 Bucket List items. I located the Sandy Creek covered bridge near Hillsboro, MO, along with a lovely state park. This completes my goal of seeing all four covered bridges in Missouri. (Watch out, Arkansas. You are next.) Before heading out, though, I had the wherewithal to pack some car-camping stuff and used the HipCamp app to locate a place to sleep. Hummingbird Hollow is a lovely private (primitive) camping site at an animal rescue sanctuary. And, it just so happened that it was the night before the full moon. When I stepped out of my car at 2:30 a.m. into the pitch black night to potty, the Hunter’s Moon (literally) was breathtaking. Or maybe it was the 32* weather that took my breath away. {Shrug}. Nonetheless, it was exceptionally awe-inspiring.

(I wasn’t drinking and driving. I was in for the night.)

I say all that to finally get to my point of today’s post. So, if you are ready, let’s go over my musings and how I realized that road trips and relationships have a lot in common.

Grab that drink. Settle in. Try to follow along. Here are three surprising ways road trips are like relationships.

1) Hazard lights are vital to your safety. If you’ve ever traveled east on I-44 through the Show-Me State, you’ll get this reference immediately. Once, my fella and I were traveling to the home of Mark Twain and rounded the corner on the interstate to find ourselves face-first in a traffic jam. He, the experienced transportation guy, immediately punched his hazard light button, and I remember thinking…“Oh yeah. Those.” Up until that point, I thought those things were just for when you were stranded on the side of the road. Well, I experienced the same thing on I-44 last Saturday. I topped a hill just east of Conway and realized traffic was at a stop. I hit my hazards and held my breath and watched, via my rearview mirror, while a Prime Trucking, Inc. semi-truck nearly ended my life. (Sorry, Mom. These are the things I don’t tell you.) I was slightly shaken by this and exited at the World’s Largest Gift Store to regain my composure. But, I thought about that near-miss all day. I sat on my bumper, resting for a bit and sipping my coffee at the bridge, and something occurred to me. Several times in my life, my internal hazard lights begged to warn me about some of the relationships I was in. Some only required a slowdown, and some were downright dangerous. It would have been nice if I had remembered my internal hazard lights in those cases, listened to my gut, and exited the relationship immediately.

2) Nothing fun happens on the interstate. After said near-miss, and a purchase of fudge in Uranus (I. Am. Not. Kidding.) I exited just past Rolla (hoping to run into the infamous Joshua Rogers) and decided to take Highway 8 towards Potosi and then north on Highway 21. First, let me just say: Both of these roads feel a little like a drunk toddler designed them, but if you can stomach switchbacks, there are a lot of fascinating sites to see along the way. The same goes for relationships. You gotta mix up the stuff sometimes. Frankly, getting out of my normal routine for a fancy, expensive dinner takes effort on my part. I know this. If you haven’t guessed, I’m more of a backyard-firepit-grilled-steak-two-shots-of-Scotch-via-lawn-chair kind of gal, preferably dressed in my “mom clothes” while I listen to Alan Jackson sing about what time it is somewhere (bonus song!). But every once in a while, a nice dinner out where I am required to wear a dress and put on perfume, or a trip to the beach for the holidays instead of watching Home Alone and Elf for the forty-millionth time, is nice. More than nice, really. Possibly necessary. So – get off that relationship interstate and have a little fun, for goodness sake. You may discover something about yourself and the person you love that surprises you.

3) Use a map, but reserve the right to take a detour. When I turned 18, I wanted to drive to Rockford, IL to see my friend, Ryan. My mom was nervous, but my dad handed me a road atlas, highlighted my route with a yellow marker, gave me $50, and said, “You’ll go North or East. On the way home, you’ll come West or South. And for God’s sake…stay out of East St. Louis”. To this very day, I always have a Rand McNally Road Atlas in my car. I have a $50 bill tucked away in a secret spot. And, I do my best to stay out of scary spaces (although some rural Ozarks counties are just as spooky as East STL). My point? Every relationship requires goals. Planning for the future together is essential and possibly life-saving. But I always reserve the right to live in the moment and throw caution to the wind. I may want to take a side road here and there or slow things down a bit. Let’s suppose you know a thing or two about generalized anxiety disorder. In that case, you know that anxious people are hyper-focused on the future. And…90% of what we worry about never comes to fruition. So, I try not to get too ahead of myself in life and in relationships. It’s just more fun that way. 

So, with that I leave you with a fourth bonus analogy: Sometimes the road…and that relationship…gets bumpy. Hang on and stay the course. As always, I leave you with a fun little song today. Send me good vibes, and let me know your relationship advice. Or, drop a comment below and tell me about your favorite road trip. I’m always in the mood for ideas. (Saturday, off to Eureka Springs, AR to meet James Dean, the author of my favorite children’s book, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. Read my post about that book here.)

As always, if you liked this and thought to yourself, “All my friends need to read this!” then do all that social stuff that makes us all famous and paranoid.   

Sandy Creek Covered Bridge – Hillsboro MO

It’s A Wonderful World

Good evening, Dear Reader! I’m trying something new…posting in the evening for a bit, to see if that changes the stats. I’m all about those stats, you know. (Wink. Wink. I don’t give a shit about stats.)

We are in the beginning stages of ‘Fall’ here in the Ozarks, and I could not be more thrilled. I find it offensive that Dunkin’ Donuts has ‘cold brew pumpkin spice’ on the menu. Pumpkin-Spice-Anything ain’t supposed to be served cold. Are you pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down, Dawg? Hand me a hot PS latte with cinnamon sprinkles, and leave me alone with a book. Please.

Nonetheless, it isn’t entirely freezing, so my body and soul are pleased. Remember, I only like the weather when it’s between 45 and 75 degrees. Anything outside that range makes me grumpy.

That said, I seem to be evolving a bit since moving into my tiny home, and it got me thinking this might be a good blog post for you folks. So, since Target seems to be marketing Hallo-Thanks-Mas as all one big long holiday, here are my quick tips (before we get into the good stuff) for not going into debt in the next 85 days: 

1) Don’t buy shit you don’t need.
2) Don’t buy them shit they don’t need.
3) Don’t tell kids there’s a Santa when you are the one who worked your ass off all year to buy that Nintendo.

There. A Simple Holiday Summation by Denise. Boom.

Now…about that evolutionary thing I mentioned before. 

Grab a drink and settle in. I think you might like this.

I’ve been happy for nearly an entire year. I know, right? The last nine years have been challenging to say the least, but around this time last year, I started waking up to the fact that some things were not working in my life and clearly, I was the only one who was going to change that. So, as I wrote in this post last week, I set out to make some changes and here we are, a year later. So. Um. Yes. {Cracks knuckles}:  I am full of joy. 

If you don’t know me personally or have just recently started reading my creepy online diary you may not realize the significance of this. But let’s just say…it’s been years – years – since I felt the way I felt true joy. 

What did I do to achieve 98% bliss? So. Many. Little. Things. Which all, in turn, helped me evolve into the person I want to be. I’m still making some tweaks here and there, picking up some interests, and dumping things that no longer serve me, but yeah. Finally, things are good.

Here are my takeaways from the last few years. I hope they speak to you in some way:

1) Don’t get too attached to an outcome. I’m tenacious. I’ve got ‘grit’. I believe in myself. I will keep trying long after something has served me. But over the last year, I learned that it is okay to get to the top of a mountain (i.e., achieve a goal) and think, “Hmmm. That’s pretty, but it isn’t spectacular.” Instead of being frustrated by the wasted time and energy, be grateful for the opportunity to learn. That doesn’t lessen the experience.

2) Be okay with saying you aren’t okay. In October 2020, I started posting videos via Facebook urging people to reach out to their friends and shed some light on mental unwellness. People were feeling the impact of COVID fatigue at that point, and no one was paying any attention. I was, essentially, telling people I wasn’t doing so hot myself, and it was okay to admit it. The videos are gone, as is the Facebook page (at least I hope so), but the message is still essential. (On that note: Call someone today. This is the time of year when people act like they are okay but then wind up taking enough Klonopin to kill men half their size. Do not text them. Call them. {Steps off the soapbox}).

3) Find a community of like-minded people. Whether you want to learn outdoor survival skills, want to make lifestyle changes, or find yourself facing the death of a loved one, there is a lot to be said about finding a support group. Support groups aren’t just for those who are suffering, though. I joined many online car-camping groups and felt supported by the members. I know I can reach out at any time. I even slept in a stranger’s driveway when I traveled to Minnesota this summer that I ‘met’ in a FB group called “Roadtrip Her.” While some of my close in-person friends are like, “You wanna what?” these crazy-ass car campers are like, “You go, Girl! That bed looks awesome!” and “Don’t forget the bear spray!” 

4) Put yourself out there. Helping others is the best thing you can do for yourself so put yourself out there. Read to a little kidTake food to older adults. Sign up to do taxes for the low-to-middle income folks in your communityBe a designated driver. I don’t care; just do something that takes the focus off yourself and your sad little life (I say that in love.) I volunteer at my son’s school. I give money to class projects. I do ‘data clean up’ for an organization in Delaware late at night. I love organizing sock drives and watching kids’ eyes light up at book fairs. I like clean data. I enjoy the feeling I get when I help kids go on field trips when I know their parents struggle to buy groceries (Ahem, I was one of those parents not so long ago). Volunteering leaves little time for you to think only of yourself.

5) Choose the right tribe. I wrote about my tribe last year in this post but it’s important to remember that your tribe doesn’t have to be big to be mighty. Additionally, if your status is “in a relationship”, remember this nugget: The partner you choose for your journey makes all the difference in the world. I’ve been married twice, and I can tell you this: I have never in my entire life felt so unsupported as I did in both marriages. We all need folks in our lives who support us, believe in us, and know when to kick us in the ass if we need it. Spend time with the people who straighten your crown, not those who tell you that dress would look better if you lost ten pounds. Do not spend one more minute with anyone who doesn’t even really like you.

So, in summary, evolution isn’t always pleasant, but it is always worth it. As is my nature, I’m leaving you with this little ol’ song, because if you really look around, the world is a beautiful place – you just gotta change the view occasionally. 

PS…If you liked this and thought others might, too, feel free to share on all the social thingamajigs.